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November 27th, 2012

Fish Meat: The Movie

Seafood ChallengesBy Mitch Jones

I recently had a chance to watch the documentary Fish Meat, which explores various ways of farming fish. Fish Navy Films produced the movie and, full-disclosure, they interviewed me earlier this year for their next film, Raising Shrimp.

It is a short film that focuses on production of fish in the Mediterranean and South America, and it highlights many of the concerns we at Food & Water Watch have about farming fish. Farming large carnivorous fish is an inefficient use of smaller fish that have to be harvested in large numbers so they can be turned into fish food. In recent years as much as 90 percent of the catch of these small fish has been used by the aquaculture industry. And we know that soy doesn’t offer much of an alternative.

The film makes clear that open ocean aquaculture is a dirty, unsustainable way to raise fish that not only pollutes local environments, but also puts local fishermen out of work. The filmmakers note that the rise of factory fish farms in Turkey is turning coastal communities that have been fishing communities for centuries (or more) into ecotourism destinations. Ways of life are being displaced and people are losing their livelihood so a dirty form of agribusiness can move into the waters off Turkey’s coast.

It’s not surprising that the filmmakers are more impressed by inland fish farms that raise vegetarian fish. We have long advocated use of land-based Recirculating Aquaculture Systems (RAS), closed systems that reuse virtually all of the water initially put into the system. As a result, RAS can reduce the discharge of waste and the need for antibiotics or chemicals used to combat disease and fish and parasite escapes – all serious concerns associated with OOA and pond aquaculture.

Perhaps the best advice from the film comes only in the closing minutes when the filmmakers present a “What You Can Do” graphic that contains one key element: eat domestic seafood. That’s certainly a recommendation we can get behind.

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